IBJNews

County small-claims courts could receive overhaul

Associated Press
May 2, 2012
Keywords
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Marion County's small-claims courts could get a thorough makeover after a report released Tuesday detailed "significant and widespread problems" with how they're run.

The courts, which are in each of the county's nine townships, handle civil disputes involving less than $6,000.

One of the proposals calls for them to be absorbed into the Marion Superior Court system, which would require a change to Indiana law. Two other plans call for less extensive reforms.

The report will go to the Indiana Supreme Court's rules committee and legislators for review this summer.

Indiana Court of Appeals Judge John Baker, who was on the task force, said the courts hadn't been operating under best practices, mostly because the system's setup was flawed. But he said he expects that to change.

"We're convinced that the present judges of the Marion County small-claims courts are totally committed to correcting that," he said. "The persons that are now in the system are going to make sure that the system does it right."

The task force, which the state's highest court appointed earlier this year after receiving complaints about the small-claims courts, held public hearings in February and March and did its own evaluation of the courts to determine the extent of the problems.

Bringing the small-claims courts into the Marion Superior Court system would eliminate several of those problems, according to the report.

The county would be responsible for funding the courts, and the judges would have full-time positions, so they couldn't practice law. The courts would have to follow more rules, and they would have to keep more detailed records of the proceedings. It also would eliminate forum shopping by attorneys seeking the most receptive courts for their cases and would bring Marion County in line with the state's other 91 counties, which don't have a separate small-claims court system.

However, Marion Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg, an adviser to the county's nine small-claims court judges, said he questions whether legislators would approve that plan because they haven't supported previous proposals for township government reform.

"What I'm concerned about is getting as many of the recommendations in practice as soon as possible," Rosenberg said, "and I think the easiest way to do that is 'Plan B.' "

"Plan B" in the report would require legislative action but would keep the courts in the townships. It still would make small-claims court judges full-time employees and would allow the courts to control their budgets. They also would have to keep better records.

The third plan the task force proposed—measures guiding people through the small-claims process—will be implemented regardless of whether the other proposals succeed.

For people who have been through the small-claims system, even small changes are welcome.

Southside resident Jake Tyler said he was blind-sided when he went through the small-claims court system. An attorney for his apartment complex convinced him and his roommate they didn't have a strong argument in their dispute over carpet damage. Tyler said they didn't know their rights, so they conceded.

He said he would support any reform to make the process clearer and make the courts seem more professional.

"We didn't understand what was going on, and it just felt wrong," he said. "That was the most frustrating part."

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. The deductible is entirely paid by the POWER account. No one ever has to contribute more than $25/month into the POWER account and it is often less. The only cost not paid out of the POWER account is the ER copay ($8-25) for non-emergent use of the ER. And under HIP 2.0, if a member calls the toll-free, 24 hour nurse line, and the nurse tells them to go to the ER, the copay is waived. It's also waived if the member is admitted to the hospital. Honestly, although it is certainly not "free" - I think Indiana has created a decent plan for the currently uninsured. Also consider that if a member obtains preventive care, she can lower her monthly contribution for the next year. Non-profits may pay up to 75% of the contribution on behalf of the member, and the member's employer may pay up to 50% of the contribution.

  2. I wonder if the governor could multi-task and talk to CMS about helping Indiana get our state based exchange going so Hoosiers don't lose subsidy if the court decision holds. One option I've seen is for states to contract with healthcare.gov. Or maybe Indiana isn't really interested in healthcare insurance coverage for Hoosiers.

  3. So, how much did either of YOU contribute? HGH Thank you Mr. Ozdemir for your investments in this city and your contribution to the arts.

  4. So heres brilliant planning for you...build a $30 M sports complex with tax dollars, yet send all the hotel tax revenue to Carmel and Fishers. Westfield will unlikely never see a payback but the hotel "centers" of Carmel and Fishers will get rich. Lousy strategy Andy Cook!

  5. AlanB, this is how it works...A corporate welfare queen makes a tiny contribution to the arts and gets tons of positive media from outlets like the IBJ. In turn, they are more easily to get their 10s of millions of dollars of corporate welfare (ironically from the same people who are against welfare for humans).

ADVERTISEMENT